Canal Plus would not be willing to agree a distribution deal for Téléfoot that only allowed it to offer the French football subscription service to its satellite customers, according to Maxime Saada, president of the French pay-television broadcaster.
The Vivendi-owned broadcaster has taken its complaint over carriage negotiations with agency and production group Mediapro to Paris’ commercial court and Saada insists that he is not willing to compromise on restricting the platforms on which Téléfoot could be offered.
In 2018, Canal Plus agreed a distribution deal with telco SFR to make its RMC Sport channels available to its satellite customers only. At the time, SFR didn’t want Canal Plus to offer a package including the channels to competing telecoms operators.
However, Saada told L’Équipe: “We want to distribute it to all of our subscribers. In 2018, we understood the position of SFR with regards to RMC Sport.
“But we don’t want to do it anymore.”
Saada stressed: “We want to distribute Téléfoot. Our strategy is always to offer the best sports content, ideally on Canal Plus. And, when you don’t have it, [our strategy is] to distribute the channels that do.
“Even when we had a more complicated relationship with [rival pay-television broadcaster] beIN Sports, we distributed them. With RMC Sport too, even if SFR preferred that we reserved it for our satellite subscribers only.”
Distribution deals for Téléfoot, which launched last month on the back of Mediapro’s deals for French football’s Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 rights, have been negotiated with French telcos Orange, Free, Bouygues Telecom and Altice.
Four rounds of matchdays of the new Ligue 1 season have now taken place – including the popular derby clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille – without Téléfoot being available to Canal Plus subscribers.
On Friday, Canal Plus issued a stinging statement accusing Mediapro of “unequal” treatment ahead of a scheduled court hearing this Thursday.
Canal Plus stated: “The preconditions for any negotiations imposed by the Mediapro Group on the Canal Plus Group are akin to impossible conditions, are unrealistic in current market conditions and are intended to exclude the Canal Plus Group from the distribution of Téléfoot’s particularly attractive football offering.”
Mediapro defeated Canal Plus in the tender to acquire the Ligue 1 rights, acquiring the bulk of the rights for €780m ($925m) per season.
Expanding on the carriage negotiations, Saada told L’Équipe on Saturday: “I have the feeling that their tactic was to sign up with all the telecom operators and keep Canal Plus for the end. We thought Mediapro would get in touch with us. As that was not the case, we took the initiative about a month ago, with the wish to come to a successful conclusion quickly.
“Obviously, we would have liked to distribute Téléfoot before PSG-OM [on September 13]. We received a completely disproportionate proposal, we made a counter-proposal and we saw that it would not budge.
“In addition, according to Mediapro’s demands, there were ideas about sublicensing football rights that we hold…before we start this kind of discussion, we want to distribute Téléfoot first, that is our priority.”
Saada said that Mediapro asked for a guaranteed number of subscribers, on which “we would have to make a payment, which represents about one third of our total subscriber base and that is three times the total number of subscribers to the Canal Plus sports package”.
He said that the broadcaster is “absolutely convinced” that these conditions were not asked of other operators and accused Mediapro of “trying to make us pay the amounts they might not have got from others”.
Téléfoot is showing eight live Ligue 1 fixtures and eight live Ligue 2 fixtures per match week. Mediapro has also secured Uefa Europa League and Europa Conference League rights from 2021-22 to 2023-24.